Thursday, 27 August 2009

Questions, Systems and Teenagers

Day 2 of the Green Ambassadors programme at the RSA with Dan Snell and his team at Arrival Education, the Eden Project and Lucy Parker from the Global Talent Task Force... The pilot project is a fusion of remarkable individuals working within a system and a process. Like the environment I suppose: a harmony between uniqueness and wholeness. When it's allowed to work.

The day ended in a series of presentations from the young people who took part, with some real personal breakthroughs by them and consequently huge pride for everyone who was lucky enough to be part of it.

Big revelations for them which they articulated beautifully, from what felt like a truly heartfelt place. And if you consider how little they admitted to knowing just a few weeks ago, their journey is all the more remarkable in terms of awareness, direct action, confidence and eloquence.

I'm left with some questions. Niggles if you like...

And if we're to be as tough and honest with them (and myself) as they asked us to be, these are questions I should ask too.

Did they interrogate the businesses enough?

Were they (and we) too pleased with the progress they'd made to worry about that?

Were they too quick to accept and be relieved by the good news that business was taking the green issues seriously?

How many of them looked at say the Greenpeace website to get the opposite and critical view of the businesses they worked with?

Did they want to please us too much?

Was their personal journey of being taken seriously as individuals overwhelming to the extent that it masked their critical instincts?

Were the adults as rigorous with each other as we were with the teenagers?

Lots of questions like this; but they all shrink into something too small to worry about (at least for now) when I remember the faces of Ashleigh, Gilbert, Johanna, Jordanna et al in moments of self discovery - raw, transparent, undisguised - the new found confidence, the trust, the sense of empowerment. A privilege to be part of.

Dan and I will ask the tough questions of each other I'm sure. For now. Respect to the young people.

And my lesson learnt from this one? Well - one very direct one. One I shouldn't need reminding of, but I do: any conversation is possible. Not just the big conversations that begin with a question like: how honest are you being with me right now?

The conversation I thought wasn't possible but was, was the one I had with guy driving the JCB outside the RSA on John Adam St. Beautiful room. Gorgeous building. Rendered unworkable by the laying of a new road surface outside. We struggled against it on Day 1, but as Day 2 moved on and the sense of deadline approached I looked outside and wondered if anything could be done.

I walked down the stairs, outside and politely gestured to the driver as if to say can we talk? Immediately he stopped drilling, took off his ear defenders and came across to talk to me. I told him what we were doing. He listened, explained his point of view and described in a language I could understand how much he had left to do. I suggested that if we were to break early he could do his noisiest work then, rather than after lunch. No problem he said.

I went back in and Sufya had already found another room. So no need for me to have worried.

The other room was even more beautiful and perfectly proportioned... and had the loudest, most distracting air conditioning I'd heard in a while. Nothing could be done we were told.

It's a system.


But the system, like my questions didn't matter. The day belonged to the teenagers.

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